Members of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met Monday afternoon in the Fleming Administrative Building to discuss the Big Ten Academic Alliance, which will be held this year at the University of Michigan starting on Oct. 17.
The BTAA, which is a yearly consortium of the 14 Big Ten universities, convenes for three days to discuss research, academics, university resources and faculty governance.
SACUA Chair Joy Beatty led the discussion Monday, and faculty representatives suggested potential talks and panels at the three-day meeting next month. The conference tends to be attended by several faculty representatives from each Big Ten university, Beatty said.
“BTAA is all the heads of faculty senate from Big Ten schools, so the chair of faculty senate, the vice chair of faculty senate and any staff members they want to bring,” she said. “It’s actually kind of a small group that’s coming.”
Beatty said each panel at the conference lasts about one to two hours, and allows individual schools to present an issue faced by faculty on their campus. She mentioned how the American Association of University Professors had lifted sanctions on the University of Iowa. The university was originally sanctioned in 2016 following an investigation into their search process for their president.
“Last year Iowa talked about getting their sanctions removed because they had been sanctioned by AAUP,” she said. “There was another session that talked about a program one school was using to give the protections of tenure to lecturers, how they had come up with a dual track system. So these would be the kinds of items that might be generally interesting or relevant for faculty senates across the country.”
During the meeting, representatives discussed what topics U-M faculty would present on. Each university will have the chance over the course of four sessions to present on topics ranging from admissions to alumni relations.
Neil Marsh, SACUA member and former committee chair, expressed an interest in discussing streamlining the leadership of faculty senates across universities, and making clear the progression of certain positions in faculty representative groups.
“The things that I’ve been thinking about, things that formulated while I was chair and didn’t get done or became apparent — one is how do we better ensure continuity,” Marsh said. “We might want to discuss the model way — you have vice chair moves to chair, if there’s a one-two, whether we want to do that or not.”
Marsh explained that because much of the conference takes place during the day on Friday, committee members should narrow down the list of topics to ensure adequate time for discussion.
“We should think strategically about what we want to get accomplished at meetings this year, and that would involve taking some of the topics that we raised in the retreat and making sure we have time to discuss them,” Marsh said.
Music, Theatre & Dance Professor Colleen Conway suggested University representatives discuss the relationship between the Faculty Senate and University administration. Conway recalled a faculty governance meeting recently in which this partnership was a major discussion point.
“At the [faculty governance meeting] a couple weeks ago there was a lot of discussion among the people there about challenges in faculty governance,” Conway said. “But I think we’re going to get to that maybe in the institutional reports, because we’re going to ask people that, tell us what works for you and what doesn’t.”
Ultimately, the committee decided on several topics to bring to the conference next month, including developing online education programs, dealing with faculty misconduct allegations and working with regents at respective universities. Several outside U-M faculty members will be giving talks at the conference, including Dean of Libraries James Hilton.
The conference will begin Thursday evening, Oct. 17, and adjourn on Saturday morning.